Pinchas: “God of the spirits of all flesh”

 “Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint someone over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, . . . so that the congregation  of the LORD may not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (Num 27:16-17)  

God is here invoked with particular reference to animal life.  The epithet “God of the spirits of all flesh” (used also in Num 16:22) has a broader scope than “God of all humanity,” but a narrower one than “God of all creation.”

All flesh has spirit, ruach, i.e., breath, life, that which animates it.  This basic biblical metaphor is presented when God creates humankind in Genesis 2, breathing life into dust.  In this version Adam is not merely the prototypical human, but the prototypical animal: the other animals are created afterward, since “it is not good for man to be alone.”

That the model of Genesis 2 applies to animals as well as humans is confirmed in Psalm 104.

These all look to you
to give them their food in due season; . . .
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground.  (vv.  27, 29-30)

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